My three-night retreat with the nuns

We were four round the little table in the nunnery kitchen: a 90-year-old German lady and her man; a nun called Sister Mary of the Angels; and me. We had just come in from the early morning mass. The German lady’s man was a Spaniard of about 35. It was impossible to tell but interesting to speculate on the nature of their relationship. Was he an unusually devoted carer? A manservant? A lover? The German lady was cross-examining me. She was deeply sceptical about a Protestant presence in the nunnery, about my being alone, about my claim to have advanced cancer, and she wanted answers. She had a powerful, commanding

In praise of nuns

Although I was ten minutes early, Vernon was there ahead of me, framed in the ancient chapel doorway, chatting up what is by general agreement the prettiest of the nunnery’s seven sisters. Vernon is a great bear of a man, raised in poverty in the Appalachian mountains, now wealthy, whose speaking voice is Jack Nicholson’s. A new friend, Vernon excites me because having endured real poverty he fiercely repudiates the glorification of anything that might be categorised under the heading of low life and calls me to order if I err in that direction conversationally. Vernon had brought the nuns three bottles of his homemade olive oil in a carrier